January 8, 2019

Young Op-Ed: Progress in Yemen requires American leadership

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) penned an op-ed for The Hill newspaper today highlighting the need for American leadership in Yemen where nearly 16 million people are on the verge of starvation – almost two and a half times the population of Indiana – and terrorist groups have exploited the war and humanitarian crisis to expand their influence and threaten the United States. In response, Senator Young writes that the United States must use its influence to persuade Saudi Arabia to pursue an urgent diplomatic solution. 

“While the situation in Yemen is daunting, the good news is that the United States is not helpless in the face of this man-made crisis. If Congress and the administration will utilize all available leverage, we can effectively encourage Riyadh to eliminate humanitarian obstacles, negotiate in good faith, and support a sustainable political solution. That is what I have tried to do since March 2017, and that is what I intend to keep doing. Our national security interests and our humanitarian principles demand nothing less,” Senator Young wrote in the op-ed

For nearly two years, Senator Young has led efforts in the Senate related to Yemen. Last month, the Senate voted to pass Senator Young’s amendment to prevent the resumption of U.S. air refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft in Yemen. 

The Hill

Progress in Yemen requires American leadership

By: U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.)

January 8, 2019

Yemen’s civil war is an unmitigated humanitarian and national security disaster.  

Almost 16 million men, women, and children are now on the verge of starvation. That’s almost two and a half times the population of Indiana.

In addition to this horrible human suffering, Iran and terrorist groups like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have exploited the war and humanitarian crisis to further expand their influence and threaten the United States, our partners, and our interests.

Even a cursory review of events over the last year and a half demonstrates why continued U.S. pressure is necessary—including from Congress.   

For too long, Saudi Arabia demonstrated that it would not lift humanitarian impediments or come to the negotiating table in good faith absent strong and sustained U.S. diplomatic pressure.  

When the Saudi-led coalition deliberately bombed cranes at Yemen’s most important humanitarian port, the U.S. government purchased replacement cranes to enable the quicker delivery of food and medicine. When the World Food Programme tried to deliver the four U.S.-funded cranes to offload humanitarian supplies to replace the capacity destroyed by the Saudi-led coalition, the Saudis would not permit the replacement cranes to be delivered—literally forcing the vessel carrying the cranes to turn around. Riyadh stubbornly refused to permit the delivery of the cranes for more than a year and only relented after a comprehensive pressure campaign. 

In response to unacceptable ballistic missile attacks, Riyadh closed Yemen’s Red Sea ports and imposed a starvation blockade—depriving millions of civilians of desperately needed food. Saudi Arabia’s actions constituted a clear violation of international humanitarian law and U.S. law. In short, Riyadh was using food as a weapon of war.  Riyadh eventually relented and finally opened the Red Sea ports—lifting its full starvation blockade only after intense pressure from Congress and the White House.

More recently, only after heightened Congressional pressure related to Yemen and the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi, has Riyadh been willing to engage in the good faith diplomatic negotiations. 

These examples demonstrate that U.S. diplomatic pressure is both necessary and effective.

Click here to read the full op-ed.